Donald Trump reportedly wants to buy Greenland from Denmark

US president Donald Trump. Picture: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
US president Donald Trump. Picture: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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It might be the most ambitious acquisition yet from US president Donald Trump.

The former businessman has reportedly asked his White House counsel to look into buying Greenland for the US, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper reported that Mr Trump’s aides were divided on the issue, with some considering it a good economic strategy and others dismissing it as not serious.

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On Thursday, a Trump ally said the president’s discussions around purchasing the world’s biggest island were not serious.

The White House has not commented on the report, but Greenland’s foreign minister Ane Lone Bagger has dismissed the idea. She told Reuters: “We are open for business, but we’re not for sale.”

In 1946, President Harry Truman attempted to acquire the autonomous Danish territory.

He proposed to pay Denmark $100 million to buy Greenland after flirting with the idea of swapping land in Alaska for strategic parts of the Arctic island, but was refused.

Greenland has a population of around 56,000, and although it is a self-ruling territory of Denmark, foreign and security policy is controlled by Copenhagen.

The US already has ties to Greenland as one of the country’s major airbases is located on the north-west of the country.

Scott Lucas, Professor of Political Science and International Studies at Birmingham University, said Mr Trump could indeed buy Greenland – but it depends on Denmark.

“Denmark would have to want to sell it, because obviously Greenland is autonomous, but it is part of the country,” he explained. “If Denmark wanted to go through the economic and political process then yes, it could be done.”

He also pointed out that when Russia sold Alaska to the US in 1867, many dubbed the purchase a “Seward’s Folly”, after US Secretary of State William H Seward bought it for $7m.

Over time, public perception over this changed as it became clear Alaska was a good source of oil, turning the acquisition into a landmark moment in US politics.

Prof. Lucas said Mr Trump is known for liking “big things” and the president may be thinking of the purchase as his “legacy”.

“Trump maybe thinks ‘I could get the world’s largest island and make it American’,” he said.

He is sceptical, however, the acquisition would actually happen. If the deal were to really be underway, then there would have been silent negotiations outside of media attention instead of leaked conversations, he said.

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Greenland has a number of geopolitical attributes to it that would make it attractive to Mr Trump, Prof Lucas said.

He pointed out that during the Cold War, Greenland was America’s northern-most base and geographically useful as a site of protection against Soviet attacks.

Secondly, Greenland’s importance for climate change is huge since most of it is covered in ice.

“There are American research facilities there to monitor the melting of the ice caps, so if I’d hope that Donald Trump was interested to see what we could to to tackle climate change using Greenland as an example,” he said.

“That’d be a good thing, but I don’t think that’s whats going to happen.”

Mr Trump’s desire to purchase Greenland could have been a tactical political leak, too. Earlier this week Vox media reported the US may be headed for another recession and the president could be using the Greenland story as a distraction from this, Prof Lucas said.

“Trump’s advisers could be happy for this to get attention because of the bad economic news coming out of the states this week – being so bad there’s a need for distraction,” he said.

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